SHAMROCK ROVERS manager Michael O'Neill wasn't surprised to see Dundee United come calling for his Bohemians counterpart Pat Fenlon, but insists that it's the quality of the defending champions' players rather than the identity of their manager that worries him after the move collapsed.
O'Neill, a former Tannadice star, was also linked with the vacant SPL post, yet it was Fenlon who landed the role before the Bohs' compensation demands scuppered proceedings.
The uncertainty at Dalymount Park could be construed as a positive for all at Tallaght, who are looking to go one better this term after finishing as League of Ireland runners up in 2009. However, O'Neill feels that the Gypsies would provide extremely formidable opposition, even if Fenlon left.
"Bohs will be strong with or without Pat," said the former Northern Irish international yesterday. "I would have to say he's assembled an excellent set of players.
"It's no surprise to me that people have come and sounded him out about opportunities. His experience in the league is second to none and his success in this league is second to none in recent years. But I focus more on the opposition's players rather than the manager."
O'Neill, who has two years remaining on his contract in south Dublin, dismissed speculation linking him with the gig and pointed out that if anyone ever did want to speak about his services, they would have to speak to Rovers first.
"I've been linked with Hibernians, and I think I was linked with the Northern Ireland job and probably linked with a job in Tescos as well," he quipped. "It's not something I put an awful lot of thought or actual credence to. At the end of the day, my focus is here. If clubs come and are interested in pursuing me as manager they have to come and go through the proper channels and speak to Shamrock Rovers and it's not something that Shamrock Rovers, at this minute in time, are publicising. I'm certainly not publicising it.
"It goes with the territory, I suppose. I think when jobs come up in Scotland that will continue. Probably the longer I'm out of Scotland the less that will be the case.
"I would expect to see out my contract. (Though) I expected to see out my contract at numerous clubs and it never happened. But no, when I came here it was important for me to sign a three-year contract. I wouldn't have come on anything less."
O'Neill, nominated for Friday's AVIVA/Soccer Writers 'Personality of the Year' award for his exploits in his debut season in the League of Ireland, is now steadily assembled his squad for 2010.
With 15 players already secured, he's on the lookout for another four or five, with a number of targets in Scotland being monitored, albeit with their situations dependent on how the January transfer window plays out there.
Enda Stevens and James Chambers are his two confirmed signings -- from St Patrick's Athletic and Drogheda respectively -- while he is still interested in Chris Turner, who agreed a deal with Sligo Rovers after parting company with Dundalk, but there have been suggestions that financial issues at the Showgrounds could make the midfielder available again.
"He was a player that we spoke to at the end of the season and we were optimistic," says O'Neill. "As it happened, it didn't work out and he opted to go elsewhere. You hear things that there are complications with how that has gone. If Chris Turner is a free agent he would be a player that we would have a big interest in again."
Rovers will not be travelling to the sun ahead of the March kick-off, instead opting for a few trips to the facilities at Carton House and a week in Scotland, built around friendly matches, to gear up for the new campaign.